Under the IDEA, students with disabilities must be provided the related services they need to benefit from their special education program. In most circumstances those services are provided to the child with a disability, but there are circumstances in which the IDEA requires that services be provided to the parents, and sometimes, others. In particular the IDEA states that counseling and training may be provided to the student’s parents.
Parent counseling and training means assisting the parents in understanding their child’s special needs, providing the parents with information about child development, and helping parents acquire necessary skills that will help them to support the implementation of their child’s IEP or IFSP. Moreover, the IDEA specifically mentions four circumstances when parent counseling and training might be provided in conjunction with providing related services to the child with a disability:
(1) Audiology services can include counseling and guidance of children, parents, and teachers regarding hearing loss;
(2) Psychological services can include planning and managing a program of psychological counseling for children and parents;
(3) Speech language pathology services includes counseling and guidance of parents, children, and teachers regarding speech language impairments; and
(4) Social work services in schools include group and individual counseling with the child and family.
Additionally, when a child needs assistive technology services those services can include training or technical assistance not only for the for a child with a disability, but, if appropriate, that child’s family. Assistive technology devices (AT) are items and pieces of equipment that are used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of children with disabilities. It makes sense, for example, if a child was provided with an augmentative communication device, that both the child and the child’s family may need training in how to use the device. Likewise, assistive technology services can include “Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers or other individuals who provide services to employ, or are otherwise involved in the major life functions of that child.” Again, it makes sense that if the child is using the AT device in school or on a job site that, in addition to the child, the educational professionals or employer receive training in how to use the device.
There are some case examples in which hearing officers have ordered school districts to provide services to the student’s parents. In In re: Student with a Disability, 50 IDELR 120 (SEA NY 2008), a New York state review officer ordered the school district to provide a parent training in multisensory strategies so that she could help her son with his reading skills at home. And in Redlands Unified School District, 49 IDELR 294 (SEA CA 2008) an administrative law judge ordered the school district to provide the student’s parents three hours a month of training. In the Redlands case the training was ordered as part of compensatory services to be provided to the student because the district had continued to use an ineffective behavior intervention plan implemented by an untrained aide. As a result, the student’s behavior deteriorated and he was unable to attend school.
Finally, there are circumstances in which sign language training for parents of children with communication impairments may be a required related service. The U.S. Department of Education has made it clear that if the IEP team determines that sign language training for a student’s parents is needed for the student to benefit from special education, then that training is a required related service. See Letter to Dagly, 17 IDELR 1107 (OSEP 1991) and Letter to Anonymous, 19 IDELR 586 (OSEP 1992). Of course, there may also be circumstances in which sign language interpreting (as opposed to sign language training) may be required to facilitate communication with parents who are deaf. In that circumstance, the sign language interpreting is being provided as an auxiliary aid or service under Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and/or, it is a procedural safeguard requirement under the IDEA.